I live on a not-so-pretty street. It’s near the center of the city but not in the center of the city and filled with pot holes and graffiti.
In American suburbs graffiti is considered juvenile vandalism that must be punished puritanically … or maybe that’s just what private school taught me. But vandalism or not, I can learn a lot about my neighborhood from the messages written on its walls.
I read that Norma is someones “flower of evil” (goodness!) and that K.C. has another spray-painter’s heart forever. Apparently we’re in an anti-fascist zone, and we’re over the TAV (treno ad alta velocità, a controversial project that would bring a fast train through current residential neighborhoods).
The term “graffiti” comes from the Italian word graffiato, or scratched, used to describe art produced by scratching into its surface.
Even the ancient Romans marked their cities by scratching messages into its walls. In fact, graffiti is said to have existed in Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt and has even been found in Pompeii and the Catacombs of Rome, despite the fact that some include rather crude inscriptions and figure drawings.
Though often shrugged off as juvenile vandalism, street art is used all over the world as a powerful medium to communicate social and political messages.
It seems just as people in ancient Rome vandalized brothel walls by leaving explicit messages about their good time, they also left political messages and original poems and art.
As it turns out, my neighborhood isn’t so different. Apparently the home of many lovesick teens, it also houses floor-to-ceiling murals of tiny Italian politicians and alien-esque creatures, such as those seen in this post.
Though not all of it will be immediately obvious, pay attention to the street art you find next time you travel – whether that means international or to another neighborhood. You’re likely to learn something new about the area and who knows, like the Ancient Romans inscriptions, you could be reading something that will become part of history.